Featherfin Catfish (Synodontis Euptera): Ultimate Care Guide


The Featherfin Catfish (Synodontis Euptera) is a species of catfish of the Mochokidae family, originally found in rivers and lakes of Central Africa, such as the White Nile river. These rivers have a rocky bottom, with an abundance of driftwood, large roots, and crevices, perfect for the Featherfin Catfish to hide from predators and scavenge for food.

The Synodontis Euptera is also known as the Featherfin Squeaker for its unique sound-producing abilities. The squeaking is accomplished by rubbing the spines of its pectoral fins into grooves on its shoulders – the sound is a defense mechanism against predators and competing Featherfins during mating season. It is also a way of communicating with one another in dark places, caves, and around the driftwood. They may also be called Lace Cat or Synodontis Lace Catfish.

As for their appearance, you may encounter some that are pale gray with zebra-like stripes and others that are brown with black spots. The Featherfin Catfish changes its appearance over time. The zebra-like ones are juvenile, and the spotted ones have already matured.

The distinctive and delicate feather-like fins (hence their name) are elegant and interesting to watch, and when they have their long spotted dorsal fins extended, it can be a magnificent sight to behold. All of that, in combination with their three pairs of barbels, give us an adorable fish that is generally considered very cute.

An interesting fact about this species is that they enjoy swimming upside down, as they search every nook and cranny of the river bed, under the rocks, and inside crevices. Those are used as hiding places as well. So, in the aquarium, they need a hiding spot to call home as they would in their natural habitat. The Featherfin Catfish is a great choice as an attractive, intriguing, and durable bottom scavenger.

Featherfin Catfish (Synodontis Euptera)
Featherfin Catfish (Synodontis Euptera)

Featherfin Catfish Care

The Featherfin Catfish is considered to be a very hardy fish, capable of tolerating many different water conditions. The one thing that needs extra attention is the substrate of the tank. Since the Feartherfin is a bottom dweller and loves to dig and scrape the river bottom, the substrate of the tank must be kept well maintained and clean.

Are Featherfin Catfish difficult to care for?

The Featherfin Catfish is usually regarded as being moderately difficult to care for. They are hardy fish, can cohabit with many different species, and are easy to feed, but can be temperamental at times, and the tank must have multiple hiding spots for them to feel comfortable. Also, the substrate must be kept clean and soft, since they enjoy the bottom of the tank, which can be an added difficulty.

Synodontis Euptera are real survivors in the wilderness, and their hardiness can be very forgiving with common beginner’s mistakes. They can have a variety of tank mates, with no problem. Another thing is that they require an aquarium with decent size and lots of places to hide inside of it.

Beginners may be capable of keeping a Featherfin Catfish but must be aware that this is a relatively large fish that needs to have its native habitat replicated in the aquarium, at least in part. They are not overly aggressive but can be very territorial.

Featherfin Catfish Temperature

The Featherfin Catfish is a tropical fish, so the ideal temperature for it to be kept in an aquarium is between 71 to 78 Fahrenheit, or 22 to 26 Celsius.

Featherfin Catfish Water pH

The pH range of the water for the Featherfin Catfish is between 5.6 to 7.5.

Featherfin Catfish Size

In the wilderness of the African rivers, they can grow to be 13 to 14 inches in length – 33 to 35 cm. In the aquarium, however, they rarely grow to be larger than 10 inches (25 cm), and the most common size is between 6 and 8 inches or 15 to 20 cm.

Featherfin Catfish Tank Size

The Featherfin Catfish requires a tank of at least 50 gallons – about 190 liters. It needs enough space and places to hide if it is to share the tank with other fish.

Featherfin Catfish Food & Diet

Featherfin Catfishes are omnivorous, which means they can eat a variety of food without issue. Their diet can include: sinking omnivore tablets, bloodworms, insect larvae, algae wafers, brine shrimps, and vegetables like cucumbers. In the wilderness, they eat anything they can find, including smaller fish.

Provide the Featherfin Catfish with daily feedings, especially with sinking foods like wafers and pellets made for omnivores, and plenty of meaty foods as well. They love to scavenge the substrate and the decors of the aquarium for food.

Do Featherfin Catfish eat snails?

Snails are a part of the Featherfin Catfish’s diet, and they enjoy consuming them. They are a threat to snails and will not hesitate to pray on them.

Do Featherfin Catfish eat aquarium plants?

Aquarium plants should be safe from being eaten by the Featherfin Catfish, as they are bottom scavengers and prefer food they can find under the rocks and mud of the rivers, that being the substrate of the tank.

Featherfin Catfish Lifespan

Some reports say that Featherfin Catfish’s lifespan can be up to 25 years, but the most commonly reported lifespan is 8 to 10 years.

Featherfin Catfish Tank Setup

The first thing about a tank setup for a Featherfin Catfish is that the substrate must be soft. Sand and smooth round gravel are the most recommended. The Featherfin enjoy digging and scraping the substrate looking for food, and if it is too hard, they will end up hurting their barbels. It is not necessary to keep the tank in a river biotope, but the aquarium must have a good water flow.

They require plenty of submerged wood, large rocks, or similar decor to be comfortable in any aquarium. Not providing them with such decor will trigger their territorial nature, and they may try to claim the entire aquarium as their own. With at least some decor big enough for the Featherfin Catfish to hide in, they will pick up a spot as their territory and not be overly aggressive if any tank mates are present. This is especially important if other Featherfin Catfish or other Catfish species are present in the tank.

Plants are very good too, as they can also make nice hiding spots for the Featherfins. However, keep in mind that the plants must be tough enough to withstand the shoving and pushing since it is a bigger fish.

As for the lightning in the aquarium, the ideal is a low-light environment. They will tend to keep to hiding places and holes if the aquarium is too bright, so the recommended is that the light is somewhat subdued.

Being an African river fish, it will thrive in aquariums made for other species from the same region, like the African Cichlid. They are ideal for the aquarium design, water parameters and are aggressive enough to stand their own against the aggressive nature of the African Cichlid.

Featherfin Catfish Breeding

This species is not known to have bred naturally in captivity. In commercial fish farms, hormone treatment is used to induce the fish to breed. In their natural habitat, the Synodontis Euptera can be seen breeding in seasonally flooded areas of the Central African rivers, and they are egg scatterers. They do not engage in parental care and may pray on the fry if given the opportunity.

Featherfin Catfish Male or Female

The females are usually chubbier and can have big bellies, with an overall rounder profile.

Featherfin Catfish Tank Mates

As we said before, the Featherfin Catfish is a territorial fish. However, if given some driftwood or decor to claim as their own, they will be generally peaceful and accept a wide variety of tank mates. Regarding other Featherfin Catfishes, the larger the aquarium the better. Since they enjoy the bottom, introducing competition in the space there can lead to increase aggression.

Some non-aggressive species are perfect as tank mates for the Featherfin Catfifh. Such as: zebra danio, goldfishes, tetras, and gouramis. Even some aggressive species, such as the African Cichlid, can be great tank mates for the Featherfin. But keep in mind that small bottom feeders are not a good idea to have around a Featherfin Catfish, such as Otocinclus, Bristlenose Plecos, and the Bumblebee Goby. These bottom feeders may be at risk around the Featherfin.

Are Featherfin Catfish Aggressive?

Not really, but they can be aggressive if they need to fight for space or territory. That is, if not enough space and hiding spots are available in the tank and if there are other bottom dwellers or catfishes. If the proper space is given to them, the aggressiveness is contained and they can be excellent tank mates. With several hiding spots, more than one Featherfin Catfish can coexist without too much aggression being displayed. The eventual territory dispute or scuffle is inevitable, however.

Are Featherfin Catfish Poisonous?

Featherfin Catfish are not known to be poisonous or venomous.

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